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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, May 25, 2002

Arrests may compel new liquor enforcers

The federal grand jury indictment of eight Honolulu Liquor Commission inspectors clearly raises the possibility that we will need at the very least, as U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo put it, "a better system to enforce the liquor laws in Honolulu."

The indictments, of course, are simply accusations. Three of the indicted inspectors haven't even had a chance to enter pleas yet. The rest have pleaded not guilty, and all of course are entitled to their day in court.

But the charges have serious implications. If a substantial part of the 57-count indictment proves to have legs, then the city's system is in dire need of change. Kubo says the system is "so corrupt it no longer maintains public trust."

Again, in Kubo's words, "these types of crimes would not have taken place if proper protocols and procedures were in place and utilized to monitor and maintain the operation of the enforcement section."

We take that to mean that the Liquor Commission doesn't, or is not in a position to, properly supervise inspectors, who are arguably underpaid and undertrained, and left to return to the same bars night after night.

Some, including Mayor Jeremy Harris, think the system is so broken it should simply be swept into the Honolulu Police Department. That may not be as simple as it sounds. The force is already under-strength, and officers would have to be rotated in and out of liquor enforcement frequently to keep them untainted and anonymous.

The City Council should also have another look at its liberal ordinances enabling strip and hostess bars, where big money and big temptation abound nightly.